OK, I’ll admit that I missed it. I’ll bet you did, too. The League of American Bicyclists (www.bikeleague.org) had designated May 11-15, 2009, as National Bike To Work Week, and May 15 as Bike To Work Day.
That’s OK, May is National Bike Month, and there’s still plenty of time to make pedaling a part of your life. If you miss out in May, it’s perfectly OK to start in June. Or July. Or whenever.
Here, in no particular order, are five great reasons to get on a bike this summer.
1) Bikes are cheap transportation. Once you buy a bike, maintenance and operating costs are extremely low. Gas prices are on the rise again. Even if we don’t see four-dollars-plus per gallon prices this summer, biking can still save you significant money. Biking regularly will also help you save money by reducing your long term health care costs. Barring an accident, which can happen in a car, too, you’re less likely to have health problems if you keep your body in reasonable shape.
2) Biking lets you experience more of the world. Instead of listening to the drone of talk radio or the same stale music you’ve heard hundreds of times, you can hear the sound of birdcalls and wind in the trees, the soft hum of your tires, the oddly comforting hiss of a oiled chain passing over gears, and the satisfying clicks of a well-executed shift. Instead of passing by sights at 50 miles per hour, you can really see them. On a quick 12-mile ride yesterday, I coasted quietly to within a few feet of some wild turkeys feeding on the side of the road. I spotted a new patch of fiddlehead ferns, open and feathery now, but to be remembered for next-spring’s salads. I also smelled new-mown grass for the first time this year and exchanged smiles and hellos with at least a dozen nice people. I would have missed all that if I’d been in a car.
3) Biking is good for you. Again, let’s compare it to riding in a car. Biking gets your muscles working, your heartrate up, burns fat, and builds muscle. Last time I checked, riding in a car doesn’t do any of those things for you. Who couldn’t use more exercise? A properly-fitted bike lets you exercise with little or none of the impact on joints that you’d get if you burned the same number of calories running. And biking is a stress-reducer. Have you ever noticed that most people riding bikes are smiling. That’s because they aren’t worried about traffic jams, speeding tickets or the cost of gas.
4) Biking is good for the planet. Manufacturing and transporting a bike takes only a fraction of the raw materials and energy that go into producing a car. And every time you choose to pedal instead of drive, you don’t have to fill a gas tank and watch it turn into air pollution. Think about it . . .
5) Biking is fun. It’s a great way to enjoy time by yourself, and an even better way to connect with friends, family, or your long-suffering significant other.
Full disclosure time: there are, indeed, some downsides to biking. Bikes are slower than cars and it’s harder to transport groceries (get a bike trailer!). When you first start riding, your butt hurts from the bike seat, and you do get tired (both of these go away if you ride more). And if it rains you get wet (wear raingear!).
Stop whining-there really aren’t any downsides to riding a bike. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
CYCLES FOR EVERYONE
When my sweetheart Marilyn and I first met, she wasn’t comfortable riding any distance on a bike, and she simply couldn’t keep up with me. Our solution was a fat-tire tandem bicycle. She loves riding Stoker on the back, pedaling and sightseeing, letting me take care of all the route finding, pace-setting, shifting, steering.
We like tandem riding so much that we’re now looking for a tandem road bike to travel farther and faster than we can on our fat-tire. Tandem biking has brought us closer together and I’d highly recommend it for any couple looking for something to do together.
The tandem bike was our solution but there are lots of others depending on the problem you face.
If, for example, issues with your back or hips mean you can’t comfortably ride an upright bike, there are recumbents which allow you to semi-recline and pedal with your legs in front of you. Some of these ‘bents are absolute road rockets
If you have balance issues-or even if you don’t-a tricycle might be the solution. Last year, Marilyn and I rode around Martha’s Vineyard with Lucinda Chandler of Trike Panther Adventures (www.guidedcycling.com; 1-866-443-2071), which takes people for half- or full-day Vineyard tours on recumbent tricycles. These “, ” (www.cattrike.com) are amazing machines. You sit comfortably in a reclining chair, pedal with your legs stretched out in front of you, and simply float along. There’s no strain on your neck, arms or back. They are easy to shift and you can go as slow or as fast as you want without fear of falling over.
Some bikes are even adapted to folks who can’t pedal with their legs or who can only pedal with one leg. A couple of weeks ago, I went riding with Geoff Krill, the winter sports director at New England Disabled Sports at Loon Mountain, (www.nedisabledsports.org) and Cameron (Cam) Shaw-Doran, a Franconia, NH native and sales-rep for So Nu Water, a sports drink company.
Both these guys are athlete who lost the use of their lower bodies through spinal chord injuries. No matter. They were using “hand cycles,” tricycles with seats that cradled their immobile legs and let them pedal with their arms and shoulders.
See? Anyone can pedal . . . you just need to find the right ride.
It looks as if one of the great events in New England Cycling, the Kenda Fest (formerly Pedro’s) is no longer. Sad. But there are plenty of other events to get you out and pedaling this summer.
For a pretty comprehensive list of charity rides, check out: www.landrys.com/events/BenefitCharityRides/default.aspx.
New England Mountain Bike Association (www.nemba.org) has an extensive list of fat-tire events.